The addition of Ryan from Atlanta in March initially could have been compared to when the Colts signed veteran Philip Rivers for a year in 2020 until they hopefully found their long-term answer at the position. But if Irsay has his way, Ryan will be their starter for the next few seasons.
"Matt is different than Philip, this is definitely different than that," Irsay said. "It's not drafting Andrew Luck, but it's different than Philip. We knew Philip was going to be a one-year sort of thing and we view this as very possibly a three-year thing. Who knows. It's hard to put a number on it."
The Colts wanted to cut ties with Carson Wentz so badly after just one season that they traded him to the Washington Commanders without a plan on who would be their starter next season. Indianapolis didn't get in the mix for Ryan until the Falcons tried to land Deshaun Watson from Houston. Watson chose to get traded to Cleveland, but the Falcons knew they had to move on from Ryan after 14 seasons with the franchise.
The Colts gave up a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Commanders for Washington's 2022 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick and a conditional 2023 third-round pick for Wentz.
"Part of the problem going forward was that there weren't any clear answers when we moved away from Carson," Irsay said. "That was the biggest dilemma. I really kind of emphasized that it was essential that we look at it that way, the cold, hard reality that we would find answers."
Ryan's presence has already been felt inside the Colts organization in just a short period of time. Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, has been "damn near coach in himself" during the team's offseason workouts.
"I can't say enough about Matt Ryan," Irsay said. "There's no way I can sit here and explain to you, unless you look at [general manager] Chris [Ballard] and [coach] Frank [Reich] and different people in this organization eyes and see the difference that goes on right now because of Matt Ryan being in this building. His professionalism, his stature still at 36 and coming in here and we really are fortunate."
The Colts will feel good if they're able to get multiple seasons out of Ryan, 36, because it'll give them time to try to find their next franchise quarterback after the Wentz experiment turned out to be a gigantic failure.
"We hope Matt can be here for four years, maybe," Irsay said. "We certainly have our radar out for a young guy that can be the long-term future."